Last week, the news went viral of a graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo state who, on account of his failure to secure a job six years after graduation, returned his certificate to the school and demanded a refund of the money he paid as school fees. It is a well-known journalism parlance that when a dog bites a man, it is no news but when a man bites a dog, bedlam! So, this bad news got copious mention in both social and traditional media. Not long afterwards, the alumni association of the university in question were reported to have come to the “rescue” of the troubled jobless man with a donation of N500,000. Let us take a look at how one of the news mediums reported the story. Titled “Nigerian graduate, who returned certificate to alma mater, receives N500,000 support”, it reads: A graduate of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Osunleke Alaba, who recently returned his certificate to the institution requesting refund of his fees during his studentship, has received N500,000 start-up fund support from the alumni association. Alaba, who graduated from the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, had complained about the “worthlessness” of his certificate following his failure to secure a job many years after his graduation. In a video that went viral, Alaba caused a scene at the reception of one of the school’s administrative buildings, claiming his parents are already tired of his perpetual dependence on them. He said if he received his fees charged him throughout his five-year programme, he could spend it to develop his innate artistic talent.
“I returned the certificate because it had no impact on my existence. I asked for a refund of the fees paid in school so I could use it to build my talent and live a meaningful life. I am an entertainer and even won the MTN talent hunt award during my service year in 2016”. The father of two further said despite his efforts to improve the living condition of his family, he has continued to get advice for him to engage in ritual activities to be rich “but I can never do that. My dad is 90 years old but I continue to borrow money from him rather than give him. All I seek now is help in any form for me to pursue my entertainment career. I don’t want my career wasted.”
Less than a week after the video clip of his weird request went viral on social media, the university’s alumni association came to his aid. In a fresh post on his Facebook page, Alaba said the alumni association presented him with a cheque of N500,000. He said; “I hereby seize this medium to express my deep appreciation to the Global Body of LAUTECH Alumni as outstandingly led by the President, Onilede Solomon, popularly known as LIMO; the Board of Trustees, and the Oyo State Chapter of the Association for their presentation of the #500,000 cheque to me today. May Almighty God continue to be with you and all members of the association for their show of love and support! I thank you once again.”
The story is as pathetic as it is sad and unfortunate but not, in my view, in the pedestrian sense that many may view it; that is, that this man could not get a paid job after six years of graduation; that he still relied on his aged father for sustenance; and that he has a wife and two children to cater for. I prefer to view it from the other side of the coin: That a man passed through the university without the university passing through him; for that is the import of his declaring his years in the university as a colossal waste. If he is right, then, not only his own time was wasted but also the time of the teachers that taught him. The space he occupied, which could have gone to a worthier student, was also wasted. University education - and the university environment itself – is not only about learning to bag a certificate, it is also about character formation; about developing and forging long-lasting relationships; and about developing an independent and analytical mindset. It is a veritable ground that fertilizes one’s imagination and creates the capacity not just to face challenges in the larger society but also to explode with ideas, with creativity and innovativeness as the new graduate conquers the world, as it were. But for our man here, university education is about acquiring a certificate and the certificate is nothing but a meal ticket. Pure and simple!
I asked Goggle for the main purpose of university education and it says it “exposes students to new research and technology... Studying at university encourages creative and independent thought... University life exposes students to other cultures and backgrounds.”
I asked again for the benefits of university education and Goggle listed 10; namely: increased access to job opportunities; preparation for a specialized career; increased marketability; increased earning potential; economic stability; networking opportunities; a pathway to advancement; personal growth and improved self-esteem; higher job satisfaction; and positive return on investment. It would appear our man here froze at the very first benefit, which is, securing a paid employment; once that was not forthcoming, he did not bother himself to explore the other vistas that his university education could have opened up unto him. And the reasons for this may not be far to fetch.
The quality of education on offer today: Most of the curriculum is archaic; emphasis is on rote learning with little or no meaningful practicality. Teachers teach to pass or fail students; not necessarily to impart the knowledge in them that will prepare them for the challenges that await them in the larger society. Students study or cut corners to pass examinations and obtain a meal ticket. Everyone leaves the university expecting to land a white collar job and begin the upward mobility to join the privileged class. Craze for materialism is in vogue: Less work, big pay! The get-rich-quick syndrome is everywhere prevalent. Many are still nostalgic about what university education used to offer here: Instant job opportunities; job recruitments were done right on university campuses; multiple job opportunities were usually there for graduating students to pick and choose from; car loans a few months into a job, etc. I witnessed employers visiting our campus at Ife in my first and second year but it fizzled out before my final year!
I must, therefore, admit that successive administrations have mismanaged not just university education but the country as a whole. These days, only the children of the privileged get jobs. Even teaching jobs, which used to be despised, have become like gold. You must know somebody who knows somebody before you can stand a chance of landing a teaching job even in the remotest rural areas these days. But thank God for social media and globalization. Our children and youths who are not voting with their feet in search of any pasture at all abroad are increasingly learning to hook on to the global economy for survival. Many of them live here but work for companies abroad, earning cool foreign exchange. Those who may have problems are those who are not technology savvy. Can someone please tell Alaba that it is not all our youths making cool money here that are into cultism and Yahoo-Yahoo! Many are doing genuine business and I encourage Alaba to do likewise.
For someone who read Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, it amazes me that he could go without a job for years and yet could not fathom what he could do with his hands on the farm. We have plenty of arable land: How, for God’s sake, could he not find something to do in an agrarian society like Nigeria? He said he is into entertainment and that he even won an award but did it not occur to him that no one entertains or gets entertained on empty stomach? No job; no means of livelihood; dependent on an aged father; yet, he got married and has fathered two children! What is this man’s definition of responsible behaviour?
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for seven months: We have read stories of undergraduates who have taken advantage to learn new trades and move into new endeavours. We have read stories of two who have even written applications that have turned them into multi-millionaires. When school resumes, the likelihood is that many students already making waves in their new endeavours may choose not to return to school. So, Alaba’s problem is not in his stars or in his alma mater but in himself as a person. The alumni people that rushed to gift him some money did not think the matter through before acting hastily. It is like they were too eager to hug the limelight and benefit from the publicity elicited by Alaba’s showmanship. But, pray, how will N500,000 cure the disease of someone seemingly lacking in ideas and bereft of purpose?
- Bolawole is a former editor & chairman of the editorial board of The PUNCH newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio, television, traditional and digital media.
Tel: 0807 552 5533